Archives For Money

By Eric on June 10, 2014 6

Have you ever found a useful tool that’s been around awhile and once you realize how much time or money it could have saved you over the years, makes you go “grrrr!!!” No, just me? OK… well… that’s how I feel about Ebates.Ebates big fat check

Ebates is a cash back service that pays you back for shopping online. Kelsey has had an Ebates account since 1999 if you can believe that (further, can you believe she’s had the same hotmail account since 1999?). She was an early adopter of the interwebs, but still, the sad part is that we only recently started using Ebates about a year ago. She kind of forgot about it, and I didn’t really know about it.

Although Ebates offers great incentives for shopping online, the service can be a bit confusing at first, but I’ll share a few tips to make sure you don’t miss out on cash back for online purchases in the future.

(Disclaimer: don’t just buy things for the cash back. Only use Ebates as a bonus to purchases you would otherwise be making online.)

How does Ebates work?

Ebates has partnerships with over 1,700 stores. And these are not the obscure stores in the far corners of the internet. Many of the biggest stores online are available for cash back. A few stores that we use frequently include…

  • Target
  • Old Navy
  • Gap
  • Expedia
  • Jack Threads
  • eBay
  • Buy Buy Baby

Ebates has gotten a lot easier to use since they’ve added the cash back button so you don’t have to visit ebates.com anymore to get in on the savings (this used to be quite annoying and cumbersome and the reason we haven’t used eBates more since 1999). No matter how helpful the tool, if you don’t remember to use it, it’s worthless.

How to Sign up for Ebates

The first thing you’ll want to do is sign up for Ebates on their website. You can do that by clicking here (tell a friend referral link).

Ebates Sign Up

 

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By Eric on June 5, 2014 +

“Nothing in the area of finances has so dominated or influenced the direction of our society in the last few decades as much as debt. It’s amazing when you consider credit cards have only played an influential role in American life since the 1980s. It was once unusual to finance a car purchase, and mortgages used be mostly for G.I.s who were getting their starter homes.” – Larry Burkett (Debt Free Living)

Debt-Free Living by Larry Burkett

I’m currently reading (listening to) Debt Free Living: Eliminating Debt in the New Economy by Larry Burkett (affiliate links: Book | Audio). The title tells you what it’s about, but I wanted to share with you, some insights from one of the chapters that really made me say… “ooohhhh! That explains so much!”

I often listen to books on my commute, and I’ll admit that this one (the narrator) is not that captivating, but the content is great. The first half of the book are a handful of scenarios of young folks and how they stumble into financial trouble, and later how they manage to dig their way out. There’s certainly bits of every story that are relatable, and the rest are helpful in understanding how easy it is to head down the wrong financial road early in life, like many of us have.

I want to share a history lesson with you from one of the chapters of the book because I think it provides some eye-opening context for the debt problem that is plaguing America at this time. Many people have been affected by the most recent recession (2008 ish) and while I’m usually more of a forward thinker, the past can give us some great lessons as we try to build our futures. Let’s dig in…

Interlude 1: Quick history lesson

There are many types of loans and extensions of credit that have become the “norm” in America over the past 80 or so years. The availability of credit hasn’t always been this prevalent. Here are a handful of types of loans that have become popular in the last century.

  • credit cards
  • car loans
  • 30 year mortgage
  • consolidation loans
  • finance company loans
  • parental loans
  • student loans

The author then asks this question: How did our culture change so quickly?

And in a sentence… the cycle of debt and credit changed everything…

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By Eric on May 29, 2014 4

There are a swarm of different budgeting tools available on the market today. Lots and lots of them. Probably too many to choose from, right? Deciding which one is right for you can leave you stuck giving up on budgeting all together. Fear not! Let me give you some ground rules for choosing a budgeting tool that will help you get control of your finances.

Budgeting Tools

When choosing the right budgeting tool, you’ll certainly want to spend some time figuring out all of the benefits and features that each offers, but what you don’t want to do, is NOT choose one at all. It’s better to choose one and use it, than to not be on a budget.

The Basics You’ll Need for Your Budget

The features that come with most budgeting platforms aren’t really necessary for the basic functions of budgeting. Budgeting is simple in that you are proactively telling your money where you want it to go, and then following the plan you’ve set up.

After it’s set, it’s simply a matter of executing the plan, or going back and moving things around. Much like a calendar, sometimes you have to move your appointments around.

  • Forecasting: A budget must be forward thinking. It must allow you to declare where the income will go before it’s actually spent. If it only shows where the money was spent, it’s just an expense tracker.
  • Saving: The budget platform should help keep track of categories that carry-over from month to month to build up savings in particular areas of your budget.
  • Mobile: At bare minimum the budget should be accessible to view while on the go. I’m not so concerned with being able to change it on the go, but being able to pull up the numbers to see if you have enough to make a purchase helps when trying to change behavior.

A Few Budgeting Tool Options for… Every Budget

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; the best budgeting tool is the one you will actually use. Keep that in mind if you’re in the market or just getting started looking for a budgeting tool.

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By Eric on May 22, 2014 10

I know she’s only two, but I just couldn’t wait any longer. I’ve wanted to try giving Rooney a commission for helping around the house for awhile, but wasn’t quite sure how to approach it. But, after reading Smart Money Smart Kids (affiliate link) by Dave Ramsey and Rachael Cruze, I had a few tactics in my tool belt.

I may have jumped the gun with a 26 month old (I’m really trying to just call her a 2 year old, but it’s hard! She’s developed so much in the past two months!). But a few weeks ago we were sitting in her room playing and waiting for Kelsey to finish getting ready before heading out the door. Rooney’s room looked much like this photo…

child commission

 

The Work

I’d had enough of stepping around, over, and on her toys and decided it was time we taught her how to pick up. That and I know that she’s a great helper at daycare when it’s time to pick up, so it’s certainly time for those good habits to be reinforced at home. I didn’t tell her I was going to pay her, because I wanted the money to be a reward itself.

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By Eric on May 20, 2014 +

Having focused intensity in our personal finances was one of the toughest things to do when we were first starting to figure out our budget. All of the “what ifs” would creep into our minds and we’d wonder if we were doing the right thing.

For 23 months we made paying off our debts a priority, and as we increased our focus on it, our debt-free date got closer and closer. The reason I say increased, is because, there were a lot of things we could have done right away, but were hesitant to do like…

Of course, there are countless other ways we slashed expenses within our budget during that time as well, but those came down to prioritizing, and changing spending behaviors like: avoiding Target.

As we got a few months into our debt snowball, we kept weighing the options on the above list and calculating our debt-free date if we took action on each of them. That was when things really started accelerating.

Each item came with it’s own amount of emotional struggles, but we didn’t realize the emotional swing we would feel when we applied those things to our debt. The more we focused, the more we hated the debt and the bigger priority it became.

not contributing toward retirement

But I always wondered what not contributing toward retirement for that short time was costing us in the long run. I never ran the numbers because I was scared to see it and we were just THAT focused on paying off debt at the time. So, let’s take a look at some numbers, shall we?

Cost of Not Contributing Toward Retirement

There are a multitude of factors that would go into this calculation, so I’m going to use some simple round numbers to paint this picture. Every financial situation is different, so if you are considering this, it’s best to run the numbers for your specific scenario. Also, we didn’t pull any money out of our retirement accounts, we simply stopped contributing into them. The money in there already stayed and grew in our account during that time.

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